Sometimes I look back and think about all the things I should have done differently when my son was young. Yes, I did a lot of things right. I always had the best intentions. But I think if I had pushed him more back then, he would be much more independent today. I hope that my story will help young parents realize the importance of teaching self-care skills to their own children at an early age.
For example, it is much easier to potty train a 3, 4, or 5 year old. Teaching a young child how to wipe themselves and wash their hands is easier than working on toileting skills with a teenager who has never been expected to do those things.
When I was a young mother, I did a lot of things for my little boy that I should have been teaching him to do. When we worked on the same self-care things that I had taught his older brother, he would cry and get frustrated. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted things done quickly, cleanly, and perfectly. So … I did it for him!
Now that he is 24, I know that was a mistake.
Once my son graduated from high school, I quickly discovered that I didn’t want him sitting at home every day, watching TV and looking at books. I began looking for quality day programs in our area. These are the programs that take young adults out to volunteer in the community, teach them employment skills, and have fun social and recreational activities.
The harsh reality was that the really good day/vocational programs that were nearby wouldn’t accept him. He did not have the level of independent self-care skills that these programs required.
I realized we had some work to do.
Fortunately I was able to teach him many self-care skills as a young adult – but it wasn’t easy. Today, my son is happy attending a wonderful program. He loves getting out of the house, being with his peers, and volunteering in the community. Yet, it is due to his ability to take care of his own needs. Use the search function on this web site to find many articles on teaching your child self-care independence.
This could and should have happened sooner if I had just taken the time when he was younger. Of course there will always be things that he needs help with, but the more he can do on his own, the better.
I also know that one day, I will not be able to do all those things for him. I did them with love, but someone else may not be as kind and patient as a mother.
My message to all the young mothers is to have high expectations and don’t do everything for your child—even if it is hard, messy, and takes a little more time. Take the time to teach them when they are young. Children get big, and big children have bigger meltdowns than little children. You will thank yourself later, and so will your child.
For additional tips on teach independence, check out Self-Determination on this webpage.